Wellington grabs jobs off Aussies

JASON KRUPP
Last updated 05:00 29/05/2013

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Hundreds more call-centre jobs are about to land in Wellington, thanks in part to a game of Aussie Rules in the city on Anzac Day.

Wellington city councillor John Morrison and businessman John Dow have just brokered a deal with Australian firm CallActive to bring 300 to 500 call-centre jobs to the city, with that number possibly growing to as many as 2000 in the next few years.

The news comes hot on the heels of ANZ's decision to create an extra 70 jobs at its call centre in Wellington, and the announcement earlier in the year that Contact Call Centres Australia will open a 100-strong office in the city in July.

Cloud software company Xero also said yesterday that it planned to take on 150 more staff at its headquarters in Wellington this year, adding to its existing staff of 210.

Chief executive Rod Drury said Xero's total workforce had already climbed from 382 to more than 400 since March. "Within three years, we will be at 1000 staff, if not more."

The idea of opening a CallActive office in Wellington came about after the city hosted the Australian Football League match between St Kilda and the Sydney Swans at Westpac Stadium on Anzac Day, Mr Morrison said.

The event gave him and Mr Dow, who arranged the event, the chance to show off Wellington's best side to Australian business visitors.

Those features included the city's compact layout, educated workforce, and cost savings over Australia that are estimated at between 30 and 35 per cent.

The event coincided with a market shift by Australian firms to repatriate their call-centre operations, having found that outsourcing as far afield as India was not as cheap as it appeared on the surface.

"We then had to go through an in-depth analysis of the cost structures and labour, but what we discovered was that Wellington is quite an attractive proposition," Mr Morrison said. CallActive had already started setting up shop here, having signed up a handful of New Zealand clients, and the firm expects to be fully operational in five months.

Chief executive Rick Allan said the cultural bond between New Zealand and Australia made it an attractive business proposition, but access to a highly skilled talent pool made Wellington stand out.

"If the person on the other side of the phone understands the life cycle of the customer, they're going to get a better service on the phone, and put the right solution in place on the first call," he said.

The firm had been considering opening in Auckland, but Mr Morrison's charm offensive won him over.

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"John's done an incredible job to show off Wellington and give us the peace of mind to do business out of here," he said.

Raewyn Bleakley, head of the Wellington Employers' Chamber of Commerce, said the deal was "fantastic news", and that it bore out the advantages Wellington had to offer.

She said the challenge was not to focus too narrowly on contact centres, but to sell the city's positive aspects to other office-based service sector businesses in the Australasian region.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister John Key told a Takapuna business audience that Wellington was dying and the Government did not know how to turn it around.

Mr Key later withdrew his comments.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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